Fast lane

True ‘automobility’:

Some of the latest, pricier car models are hybrids in more than power sources, they also possess hybrid suspensions combining both hovercraft-like air cushions and fully electronic wheel carriages, which allow vehicles not only higher cruising speeds and fuel efficiency, but all-terrain capacities — including comfortable traversing of swamps and large bodies of water which would have stopped even the formidable US Army HumVee vehicles of the late 20th century.

The new technology suspensions also provide all wheel steering and drive, 360 degree turn radiuses no bigger than the length of the vehicle, and full sideways movement as desired for parking, etc. The hybrid suspension allows the car’s wheels to ‘tread lightly’ in travel, via a variable mode where in ideal, dry, straight line long spans the air cushion serves as the primary contact with the road, with the wheels touching only sufficiently to steer, but on curves or during braking, etc, the wheels may press harder against the road (the air cushion deflates)— in other words, the vehicle uses its air cushion to vary its effective weight and kinetic friction where contact with the roadway is concerned.

Embracing RFID:

The automobile industry will be using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to track parts throughout its supply chain within three to five years — and automobiles produced during that time frame will feature built-in wireless systems, according to Anthony Scott, chief technology officer at General Motors Corp.

As for the RFID technology, which stores supply-chain data on small tags equipped with antennas, Scott said he expects the entire automobile industry to eventually embrace it in the same way Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to use RFID tags in its supply chain. “It will happen,” Scott said, adding that the use of the tags will require backing from the entire automobile industry. Scott said GM has already worked with the MIT Auto-ID Center on the development of standards for the tags’ use.